When you experience grief, you know you are in the throes of it for the long haul. This is not a short sprint. This is a marathon, and like any marathon, you must build up your endurance. You will never fully get over your grief, but hopefully, you will be able to complete your journey by learning to build up patience, strength, and resilience. Unlike a marathon, there is no map or guidebook to prepare your route. You are running with no markers, clues, or pathways that have been traversed before. Your destination is unclear, you don’t know the length of your journey, and you have no idea how long it will take to get there. You are flying blind, and it will take all your muscle to finish the course.
Since you have never been through this kind of grief, you can’t go too fast. You must train slowly by going through the experience step by step. You must build up your stamina to be able to continue to run the course. Some days, it is a Herculean effort to get out of bed. Some days, you don’t want to walk at all. Know that it is okay to crawl under the covers, take a rest from grief, and regroup before going forward. The key to survival, is to have the commitment to face grief head on, and forge ahead.
When you are in grief, your marathon will not take a smooth path. There will be hills and valleys of pain. The road is bumpy, filled with potholes, and badly in need of construction. But, with the help of others, you can find the strength to pave your path through the rough road. Pacing yourself is key. You can’t just run ahead and expect to find solace at the end. You must know that you are in this for a protracted time and your persistent training and stamina will carry you through.
Joining a support group of other grievers helps immensely. Knowing that you are not alone in this run, is powerful and motivating. Other grievers will cheer you on and you will find solace in their generosity and sustenance. You can encourage each other and hopefully all look to the finish line as a goal, even though you know that you will never be finished with grief. In the comfort of other grievers, you know that the finish line will bring some sense of relief, even though your sadness will forever linger in your heart.
Friends and family stand on the side line while you jog along giving you high-fives and cheers along your journey. These people feed your soul, and literally bring you food to keep you going. Even with the support of friends, your trek is a lonely one, but you can help yourself with music and meditations while you plug along.
When you finally reach a finish line of your choosing, there will be no ribbon, or medal, or cup. Knowing that you have traversed through the marathon of grief, and made it to a point where you can finally find a new pace for your life, is quite the accomplishment. A marathon of grief is a series of choices to re-engage in the act of living. The realization that you have persevered and endured the hardships of this marathon, and come out the other side to a place where you find peace and harmony, and perhaps some meaning in your loss is such a major coup. Just looking back at the long and winding road you have traveled, and seeing the constant evolutional progress you have made, awards you the knowledge, that you have the power to move forward towards a new life.
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” - Vicki Harrison
This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn’t make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grieve differently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let’s talk about living with loss. If you have a story you’d like to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.